State police filed vehicular homicide charges against a Johnstown man in a crash in July on Interstate 78 that killed a tow-truck operator working on a roadside assistance call.

An arrest warrant was issued for Allen E. Putman, 29, the Berks County district attorney’s office announced Friday, Nov. 13. He was not in custody as of that afternoon.

The death of Tyler A. Laudenslager, 29, of Halifax, Dauphin County, helped spark legislation to increase penalties for drivers who do not pull into a different lane at an emergency response area.

Charges against Putman include homicide by vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment, violation of duty of the driver in an emergency response area, following too closely and driving at an unsafe speed.

State police at Hamburg previously released this account of the July 21 three-vehicle crash in Bethel Township:

A passenger vehicle driven by Putman was traveling west on I-78 when it rear-ended a commercial vehicle, and then veered across the highway and struck Laudenslager as he was standing along the interstate. The vehicle then struck the tow truck before coming to a rest a short distance away.

Laudenslager had been actively involved in a roadside assistance call when the crash occurred. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Dozens of emergency responders are killed or injured by vehicles every year, with 44 deaths logged nationally in 2019, according to the Emergency Responder Safety Institute.

On Oct. 29, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the new law that increases the penalties under the state's Steer Clear law, which require motorists to move over to an adjacent lane at an emergency response area, and if that is not possible, to slow down to a speed of no more than 20 mph less than the posted speed limit.

The measure, a rebranding of the 2006 law, was passed by the Legislature in response to an increase in fatal accidents at emergency response scenes.

Motorists are fined $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second offense and $2,000 for the third offense.

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